Thom Bierdz Coming Home

Out actor Thom Bierdz returns to The Young and the Restless in a hush-hush story line 20 years after he last appeared on the top-rated soap. Is he playing gay? That's the million-dollar question.

BY Michael Fairman

May 18 2009 11:00 PM ET

In one of the best-guarded top-secret soap opera returns and story lines in history, gay actor Thom Bierdz returned in a stunner of a cliffhanger this past Friday on The Young and the Restless as a character referred to as "Langley" -- but is he actually the real Phillip Chancellor III back from the dead?

A little history lesson -- get ready to take notes: In 1989, Phillip was drinking heavily again and was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Then in 2007 it was revealed that Phillip III was not Jill Foster Abbott's biological son. It had appeared that Jill's archrival, Katherine Chancellor, switched the babies after birth, and we came to realize that Jill's real son was raised in Australia as Cane Ashby. Enter Cane, who has become the town hero and apple of Jill and Katherine's eye. However, at the end of last Friday's episode we see a flashback in which Cane is talking on the phone to none other than Bierdz, and it looks like there may be a conspiracy theory going down in Genoa City!

Bierdz has gone from triumph to tragedy and back again. He has a very successful career as a prolific painter and writer. Shortly after Bierdz left Y&R in 1989 to pursue a film career, his younger brother, Troy, who has paranoid schizophrenia, beat their mother to death with a baseball bat. A decade later, his older brother, Craig, committed suicide. His family's tragic past -- and Bierdz's journey to forgiveness -- was chronicled in his best-selling memoir, Forgiving Troy.

Now Thom is coming full circle and is back on Y&R 20 years later. The rumors have been running rampant. Will he be playing a gay version of Phillip or someone else? His triumphant return and eagerly awaited story line have given him the opportunity to come back to daytime as an out gay man -- in fact, Bierdz is the only out gay man on daytime television.

While Y&R will not comment on the story line that is bringing Bierdz back to daytime's top-rated soap, blogs have reported that former Guiding Light star John Driscoll will be taking on the role of Phillip Chancellor IV, son of Phillip and Nina. Another footnote -- the character Rafe (played by Yani Gellman) has just confirmed he is gay. So where does Bierdz fit in? Y&R is being hush-hush, but it's safe to say fans are in for the ride of their soap opera lives.

On subjects ranging from his early days serving drinks in a gay bar in Milwaukee -- frequented by Jeffrey Dahmer, no less -- to wondering if his former costar Lauralee Bell (Cricket, now known as Christine) knew he was gay when they worked together, Bierdz is not only outspoken in this Advocate.com exclusive -- he's an inspiration.

Advocate.com:The stunning revelation on this past Friday's cliffhanger took everybody by surprise! It was kept tightly covered. I had heard you had just come to the studio a month ago and just taped the one scene.Thom Bierdz: Yeah, that's right. We had decided to do this several months ago, and it was so under wraps. I was told not to tell anybody.

Did you not tell anybody? I told some friends and some gallery owners that sell my paintings, but I did not tell anybody in the industry, and I did not tell anyone so that it could leak to magazines. A couple of weeks ago I was snuck into the studio, and we filmed several episodes and I snuck out.

Tags: television

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